Why would a frightening percentage of American women gladly trade five years off their lives for 10 pounds off their bodies, or prefer to be perceived as thin rather than as kind or intelligent? This obsession with thinness needs to be understood if we are to avoid the consequences, which are often tragic. Beyond this, there are further steps that ought to be taken so that women can have a healthier and more positive sense of themselves.
It is no wonder that American women are obsessed with thinness. From a very young age, it is emphasized to women how important it is to be pretty, and to be pretty by society’s standards means being thin. This blatant message is seen everywhere. Not only do images in magazimes, TV commercials and billboard posters put an exaggerated emphasis on women’s bodies, they also hold up an ideal of thinness that is almost impossible to attain. Computer-enhanced photography employs techniques such as airbrushing blemishes and slenderizing the bodies of models. This adds to the creation of an ideal model, that women strive to mimic.
American society’s prescription of what it means to be feminine needs a rewrite. Current definitions of femininity are dictated by a social system that gains control over women by defining them primarily in terms of their bodies. In order to see change, women must challenge the industries that feed upon body insecurity. They need to change the messages that women absorb daily. One method would be to stop purchasing the very fashion magazines that have been allowed to define femininity. Large-scale boycotts of these fashion magazines can lead to major change of the feminine ideal. Females should concentrate their efforts in learning who they are as individuals, instead of trying to mimic the ideal models that the media consistently presents them with.
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Another method that can be used to alleviate the emphasis placed on the ideal figure is through education. Women need to realize that the images seen in advertisements and on television sitcoms are not the norm. The average American woman is 5’4”, a size 12, and 155 pounds. Women with these proportions hardly ever appear in clothing or cosmetic advertisements. Education is needed to stress the new message that women of all shapes and sizes can be beautiful.
There are many alternate ways to increase a woman’s sense of self-worth and self-esteem rather than admiration of beauty. Improved everyday interactions can be another way to take the emphasis off of a woman’s image. Begin to give compliments to friends based on achievement and intelligence rather than on physical appearance. If a woman must be rated, the value should be placed on her mind as opposed to on her body.
Since many American women will go to extraordinary lengths to be thin, the only solution for this rampantly growing problem is to attempt to understand why it has become such an obsession. It is clear that media, television, and acquaintances all stress the importance of being thin and beautiful to impressionable young women. If we as a society could only change the emphasis to be on the mind rather than on the body, women would benefit with increased self-esteem, healthier lifestyles, and increased confidence.